Those of you following my Twitter feed may have spotted my micro-rant last Monday about the confiscation of a potential weapon from my hand-luggage at Gatwick Airport. I thought I should follow up with a little more detail. OK – no cheating now: we’re going to see if you can identify the object in question from a number of characteristics which I will describe.
- It had already passed successfully through the compulsory hand luggage scan at the main security checkpoint;
- It was in the external mesh side-pocket of my laptop bag;
- It has travelled by air many times in the same place;
- It was confiscated in a further, random screening at the boarding gate;
- It is hollow, with a mass of almost exactly 2oz (approx. 56 grams), and a diameter of about 2 1/2 inches (approx. 6.5 cms);
- According to the security staff, it is not a risk at ground level, but in the reduced air pressure of an aeroplane cabin, becomes hard and potentially dangerous (!).
OK, I’ll put you out of your misery – the lethal object in question is… a tennis ball.
And why do I carry a tennis ball in my hand luggage? Well, it’s not because I’m a deranged fundamentalist hell-bent on taking over the aircraft; it’s on the advice of my physiotherapist, who recommends I use it to apply targeted pressure to specific areas of my back – especially during or after long-haul flights. On the other hand, you can take on board items such as the following:
- lap-top power supply adapter and cable (solid 14 oz./380g weight on a handy lead);
- lap-top security cable (6ft steel cable with a metal lock on the end);
- bottle of duty-free vodka (1 kg weight with a neck for a handle – also contains lots of sharp glassy bits and flammable stuff);
- 4oz can of foie gras… hard and solid, with sharp edges when opened;
- and so on and so on…
I’m going to stop at that, because mulling over the absurdities of this can quickly drive you round the twist. And to the security guys – I know you’re only doing your job, but thanks for the back-ache. To whoever does the risk assessment: get real.